Over Thanksgiving break, as I sat alone in my room scrolling through Twitter on my phone, I came across something extremely terrifying: There’s a movie coming out based on a book adapted from a One Direction fanfiction I read back in middle school: After.
We’ve seen this happen before. 50 Shades of Grey was a cringeworthy Twilight fanfiction first, a bestselling book for lonely suburban wine moms second, and a horribly stale blockbuster movie last. Now it’s time for author Anna Todd — whose current Twitter username and old Wattpad username is @imaginator1d — to bring her underdeveloped and poorly composed universe to the silver screen.
Before we get too far into this, you should watch the trailer for this movie. It reaches comical levels of bad and cliché.
Let me just unpack this monstrosity bit by bit. I’ll start with the male lead, Hardin. In the original fanfiction, there was no Hardin, only a dramatized, idealized, fake version of One Direction’s Harry Styles. Hardin is exactly what you would get if you asked a street vendor in Chinatown, New York for a knockoff version of Harry. Some of Hardin’s tattoos mimic Harry’s iconic ink, and Hardin absolutely butchers the smooth British accent. Fanfiction Harry did have a slew of facial piercings that the moviemakers opted to leave out, though.
In the fanfiction version of After, Harry is a rude, abusive piece of shit whom Tessa, the female lead, desperately wants to “fix.” As the trailer’s cringey “Truth or dare: are you a virgin?” “I dare you to make out with Hardin” and “I think you owe me a dare” lines imply, Harry- er, Hardin, represents a lot of pressure-induced firsts for Tessa.
This representation of a romantic/sexual relationship was definitely not what I needed to be reading as a middle school girl, and it’s definitely not what middle school girls need to be watching now.
The trailer shows glimpses of what makes Hardin so elusive and dangerous, the very factor that makes Tessa so infatuated by him. He lifts her dress up using a book in a dark room, he jumps some guy at a bonfire while wearing a black hoodie, and a friend tells Tessa to “be careful, Hardin is complicated,” which is, by far, the dumbest most shallow thing you can say about somebody’s character.
Not only are the characters flawed, the plot is shallow. Girl meets boy, boy take emotional issues out on girl, girl gets hurt but instead of leaving, thinks she can change boy, girl and boy rekindle their flame, rinse, repeat.
I didn’t expect much more from After, seeing as it was originally thought up and executed by a One Direction fangirl, but I’m so disappointed somebody thought it would make a good movie. Haven’t we had enough of these tired, oversimplified love stories?
The D-list casting and low-caliber graphic design used in the movie’s promotional imagery just screams “we spent half of our budget on securing the rights to an Ariana Grande song to use in the trailer” to me, but maybe I’m just being too harsh at this point.
I am simply shook beyond belief that the After movie is real and actually going to movie theaters. It deserves to be a Netflix original at best. I just hope doesn’t make enough money to spin a sequel.